Appreciating ecosystem services

Recognizing human services gained from ecological systems
Identifying environmental services
Ensuring that the essential ecosystem services and biological resources required to meet basic human needs are protected and maintained. An ecological service is a service provided free by an ecosystem or by the environment, such as clean air, clean water and flood amelioration. Although we could not survive without environmental services, this contribution of the "natural capital" is often discounted in economics and decision-making for natural resource use.
Environmental services are not goods that can be substituted by man-made products but they can be enhanced by human practices. One could replace nutrients exported by agriculture by synthetic fertilizers but there is no possible way by which man-made products could substitute the complex natural "technology" that soil micro-organisms perform to maintain soil fertility.

Changes in environmental quality or local elimination of some environmental services lead to quantifiable costs, including: changes in productivity and production costs (thus changes in prices and levels of output); replacement or restoration costs; and health costs (sickness and loss of productive time, increased medical expenses.

Different sectors of society view ecosystems in terms of their own economic, cultural and societal needs. Indigenous peoples and other local communities living on the land are important stakeholders and their rights and interests should be recognized. Both cultural and biological diversity are central components of the ecosystem approach, and management should take this into account. Societal choices should be expressed as clearly as possible. Ecosystems should be managed for their intrinsic values and for the tangible or intangible benefits for humans, in a fair and equitable way.

Ecosystem functioning and resilience depends on a dynamic relationship within species, among species and between species and their abiotic environment, as well as the physical and chemical interactions within the environment. The conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of these interactions and processes is of greater significance for the long-term maintenance of biological diversity than simply protection of species.

One of most fundamental benefits of conserving biodiversity lies in the ecological services which it provides. These are essential to fulfilling human needs as well as those of all life on Earth. Some of the main services provided by the ecosystem include: a) maintenance of the hydrological cycle, and thus the provision of clean water; b) maintenance of atmospheric quality, which in turn provides clean air to breathe and helps to control the climate; c) the generation and conservation of soils, which are essential to agriculture and forestry; d) protection from erosion; e) nutrient cycling; f) pollutant breakdown and absorption; g) control of many potential crop pests and vectors of disease; h) the pollination of many crops; i) maintenance of a vast resource of genetic materials from which many countries have developed crops, domestic animals, medicines and industrial products; and j) the insurance and basis for adaptation which biodiversity provides against large changes in climate and ecosystem processes.
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 1: No PovertyGOAL 15: Life on Land